The case could lift the lid on corruption in Thailand and the insidious nature of such corruption which cross-pollinates among government agencies. The killing of Police Lieutenant Colonel Siwakorn Saibua has led to twin investigations into both his murder and the ability of the local sub-district boss at the centre of the affair to win government construction projects worth billions of baht, exposing evidence that is already disturbing.
The Director of the Corrections Department, Mr Ayut Sinthopphann has been forced to issue a clarification to confirm that Kamnan Nok or the boss of Ta Kong subdistrict, Mr Praween Chankhlai, who was arrested by the Royal Thai Police for the murder of Royal Thai Police officer Police Lieutenant Colonel Siwakorn Saibua on September 7th last in Nakhon Pathom, is currently being held at Bangkok Remand Prison. It follows rumours and a statement at the beginning of the week by a former MP saying that he was officially asking for such clarification given public unease about corruption. The disturbing case was transferred this week into the hands of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) and Crime Suppression Division (CSD) by order of the National Police Commissioner General Damrongsak Kittiprapas as the scale and significance of the investigation grows.
National Police Chief General Damrongsak Kittiprapas has announced a shake-up linked with the expanding investigation into the activities of the Kamnan of Ta Kong sub-district in Nakhon Pathom province when he transferred the case to the control of the Central Investigation Bureau and the Crime Suppression Division in recent days.
Up until Monday this week, the case had been directed by Deputy Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn and was gathering momentum with key discoveries on the previous weekend regarding the suppression of evidence and the deliberate switching off of CCTV cameras before the murder of Police Lieutenant Colonel Siwakorn, by a gunman believed to be acting for the local boss of Ta Kong sub-district Praween Chankhlai or Kamann Nok which has sparked both outrage and unease in Thailand.
Respected police officer killed in heated dispute with local tambon boss over the promotion and transfer of a relation within the police service ranks
The murdered officer, a respected figure known as Inspector Bank who refused to countenance corruption, was attending a celebratory banquet hosted by Kamnan Nok at which over 25 police officers attended on the night of September 6th last, when he was gunned down after a heated verbal exchange with the businessman.
The policeman reportedly refused to agree to a transfer and promotion proposed by the local tambon boss within his own ranks as it was an internal police matter and subject to his own authority as a sworn officer.
On Monday, Police Chief General Damrongsak announced that Police Major General Suwat Saengnum of the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) would take over the case.
Parallel investigation into Kamnan Nok’s firms
That parallel investigation being conducted by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) will continue with both national police agencies cooperating.
This probe is focused on government contracts awarded to Kamnan Nok’s firms.
The Police Commissioner highlighted the importance of being fair to all parties in the investigative process as it involved an influential figure who was facing serious charges including one of premeditated murder.
The outgoing police chief whose replacement will be announced in the coming week, suggested to reporters that the case revolves around whether the gunman, Mr Thananchai Manmak who reportedly worked for Mr Praween Chankhlai or Kamnan Nok, was acting under the control of his boss when the policeman was gunned down or executed by the henchman acting on his own compulsion.
Outgoing police chief calls for fairness, due process and discipline in the case as it involves an influential figure while being of critical importance
General Surachate Hakparn, throughout last weekend, in speaking with reporters, was adamant that the evidence showed planning leading up to the murder of the senior policeman and that this was seen on CCTV footage including the disabling of two key cameras that covered the shooting area.
General Damrongsak also said the investigation was looking closely at the involvement of civilians or associates of Kamnan Nok who had destroyed evidence and attempted to pervert the course of justice hours after the killing of the senior police officer.
He noted that six officers have already been charged under Section 157 of the Criminal Code relating to their failure to perform their duties and that these officers were currently being held on remand without bail.
‘Big Joke’ over last weekend was increasingly targeting other police officers whose testimony was suspect in addition to the six being held on remand
Before Monday’s announcements, the expanding investigation as directed by Deputy Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn or ‘Big Joke’ had been zeroing in on more police officers who attended the party on the night in question whose evidence was suspect and were being questioned also based on the recovered CCTV footage that has been received from a recovered server that had earlier been thrown into a nearby canal to destroy the evidence recorded by the surveillance cameras.
General Damrongsak accepted that the investigation also touched on the power dynamics in local provinces, particularly concerning influential people and what he termed financial authority networks.
The case centred on Kamnan Nok, is a significant one.
Described as potentially the biggest criminal case in Thai history due to its links with possible corruption linked with government procurement projects
A TV show platformed a former prosecutor, last Thursday, who described it on national television in Thailand as perhaps the biggest criminal case in the country’s history even surpassing the recent shocking case of serial killer Am Cyanide or Sararat Rangsiwutthaporn which was finalised by General Surachate in June.
That case saw Ms Sararat charged with fourteen counts of premeditated murder and one count of attempted murder alongside a host of other criminal charges.
Biggest criminal case in Thai history to be finalised, on Friday, against suspected serial killer Am Cyanide
Pramet Inthrachum explained to viewers the potential fallout from the criminal case that has emerged after the outrageous act of murdering a police officer in front of 24 other senior officers of the force.
He also explained how the case was linked to an apparent suicide by another senior police officer in the days afterwards when the body of Police Colonel Vachira Yaothaisong was found at his home in Pathum Thani and government contracts being investigated by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) related to Kamnan Nok.
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI), last week, revealed that two firms associated with Mr Praween Chankhlai or Kamnan Nok won 1,544 government contracts worth ฿7.57 billion over an eleven-year period to date.
Public suspicions raised this week suggesting that the man being held at Bangkok Remand Prison was not Kamnan Nok, addressed by Corrections Department
Another controversy arose this week when a former MP in Parliament, Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, a former party-list MP of the Thai Sriwilai Party, raised public concern as to whether Mr Praween Chankhlai was being held in prison with rumours spreading online that a double or someone resembling him had been taking his position at Bangkok Remand Prison.
‘On Monday, I will submit a letter to the Minister of Justice to examine ten fingerprints to determine if Kamnan Nok, the accused, the man who killed the senior police officer known as Inspector Bank is being detained at Bangkok Remand Prison to ensure that it is the same and correct person.’
The comment was taken seriously by the Department of Corrections, which is currently being heavily scrutinised by the public in Thailand because of the ongoing controversy linked to the case of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was transferred within hours of being admitted to prison on August 22nd last, to a suite at the Police General Hospital in Bangkok.
The Director of the Department of Corrections, Mr Ayut Sinthopphann, issued a statement commenting on the news report and confirming definitively that Mr Praween Chankhlai or Kamna Nok was the person being held in Bangkok Remand Prison since September 9th by order of the Criminal Court sitting in the Ratchada area of Bangkok.
Praween Chankhlai confirmed to be eating well in prison and verified by fingerprints identification routine on admission after September 9th court order
Mr Ayut produced a statement from Mr Nastee Thongplad, the commander of Bangkok Remand Prison, confirming that the local tambon boss was admitted to the facility after appearing before the Criminal Court in Ratchada based on a court-issued detention warrant on September 9th.
The commander of the prison confirmed that the man admitted was successfully verified by using fingerprints which were matched against various government databases to ensure that the right person was being held.
Mr Nastee confirmed that Mr Praween was currently being held in special protection facilities while being screened for COVID-19 and was receiving visits from family and lawyers under prison guidelines including the use of a LINE application app.
The Corrections Department director concluded that there was absolutely no doubt that Mr Praween was the person being held and pointed out that he was adapting well to prison life, including the ability to eat prison food.